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What are probiotics? Basic things you need to know

  • 5 years ago

Probiotics are live bacteria and yeasts strains that have a “good” effect on your body. These microorganisms multiply in the gastrointestinal tract and compete with “bad” bacteria bringing many health benefits like increased immunity or cancer prevention.

1. Probiotics – discovery

Although the phenomenon of probiotics was described as early as in 1877 by Pasteur and Jaubert, the favorable impact of lactic acid producing bacteria first drew the attention of the Russian microbiologist and Nobel laureate Élie Metchnikoff. He suggested that consuming products having “lactic bacteria,” or probiotics, can lead to the “implantation” of beneficial microorganisms into the gastrointestinal tract, which will replace pathogens, so-called “bad” bacteria. The term “Probiotics” came to live in 1965 when it was decided that “good” bacteria need a unique name.

2. Probiotics – characteristics

Before bacteria can be called probiotics, they must be thoroughly tested and meet several conditions. To fulfill their function, microbes belonging to probiotics type must be able to adhere to intestinal epithelial cells, act antagonistically to pathogenic bacteria of the gastrointestinal tract and easily colonize the intestines, which ensures for example resistance to low pH of gastric juice.

Finally, probiotics can’t produce toxic substances that are harmful to the human body.

The number of bacteria strains that meet those requirements are limited. The most popular strains are Lactobacillus acidophilus, L. Plantarum, L. rhamnosus, Bifidobacterium bifidum iB. longum

3. Health Benefits of Probiotics

Probiotic health benefits vector infographic. Flat illustration about probiotics influence to human body. Man and woman standing holding hands. Two happy people in heart shape.

Nowadays, it is well known that probiotics not only improve the functioning of the gastrointestinal mucosa but have a much wider spectrum of activity, including improving the immune system.

Prevention of intestinal infections due to probiotics occurs by inhibiting the development of pathogenic microorganisms through several mechanisms: production of substances unfavorable to bad bacteria (organic acids, hydrogen peroxide, bacteriocins), competition in adherence to the intestinal epithelium and the use of nutrients necessary for growth and development.

Immunostimulation, or stimulation of immune mechanisms due to probiotics, occurs by enhancing phagocytosis, increasing the activity of macrophages and lymphocytes, increasing the synthesis and activity of IgA antibodies in the gastrointestinal tract, promoting differentiation and development of Th1 cell lines and restoring balance between the number of Th1 and Th2 lymphocytes and production cytoprotective substances and functional peptides. The task of probiotics is also the production of nutrients and increasing their bioavailability.

Other benefits of probiotics:

  • Alleviation of symptoms of lactose intolerance present in food. Lactose intolerance occurs in the absence/insufficiency of the enzyme that breaks down lactose (lactase). The accumulation of unmetabolized lactose is manifested in the form of gastrointestinal discomfort. Strains of bacteria in probiotics produce an enzyme (β- galactosidase), which breaks down lactose.
  • Reduction of the risk of developing some cancers. Probiotics are most likely to reduce the risk of developing colorectal cancer.
  • Reducing allergies. Probiotics also reduce the incidence of allergies in susceptible individuals, especially in the case of atopic dermatitis.
  • Regulating bowel movements. Also, probiotics regulate intestinal functions, eliminate toxic substances from the body, improve the lipid profile in people with high cholesterol levels and prevent the recurrence of vaginal infections (fungal and bacterial). They are a natural immunological barrier.

4. When you should get some probiotics?

You should use probiotics to deal with any of the conditions below:

  • acute diarrhea, diarrhea caused by the Clostridium difficile and by rotavirus and other viruses, travelers’ diarrhea,
  • prophylaxis and treatment of antibiotic diarrhea,
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome,
  • acute gastritis and enteritis,
  • infection with Helicobacter pylori,
  • dysbacteriosis of various origins,
  • allergies, especially atopic dermatitis,
  • respiratory tract infection in children,
  • prevention of some bacterial and fungal infections, g., vaginal,
  • prevention and treatment of urinary tract infections,
  • to increase the body’s resistance,
  • to lower blood cholesterol (in hypercholesterolemia),
  • to prevent cancer and to cut the negative effects associated with chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

5. Where to find probiotics?

Where do probiotics occur?

There are some milk products having probiotic bacteria (e.g., Kefir, yogurt, dairy desserts).

You can also find probiotics in some fermented foods, for example in vegetables such as pickled vegetables, kimchi, and sauerkraut. In many soy products such as tempeh, miso, and soy sauce.

There are also special supplements containing the best probiotics.

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